Sometimes I can convince myself that days I sleep all the way through are spent in my body healing- creating new neuropathways that will help me function healthily when this anxiety and major depression are through. Most of the time, though, I just feel useless. I recognize I haven’t done anything worthwhile for my family, my community, and my Lord because my body did not have the willpower to stay awake.
This might be the most shocking thing about depression. I, a woman who has always been doing lots of things pretty successfully, suddenly can’t get stuff done. Seriously, I even have to bribe myself to take a shower! Without the promise of some kind of dopamine reward, I do not have the energy to get things started, let alone done! And even the things I know will produce that feel-good neurotransmitter I have trouble engaging in because I lack the initial dopamine investment. The lack of motivation- the lack of ability to DO anything- has really rocked my world. It’s really challenged my self-worth. That lack of “doing” is what I am most likely to break into tears about. On those regular evenings when I look back on what I’ve accomplished and “getting kids to and from school” is all that’s on that list.
Called out of productivity
Besides the things that I do as a homemaker, I am usually very active in reaching out to lonely women around me. I reflect on times I’ve been God’s hand of love by going to someone who is grieving or inviting an isolated woman over for coffee. Listening to others and responding with love and insight is central to my identity as God’s servant. This is my passion and calling in life! This is who I see myself as!
And yet for this season, God has called me to something else. To ask for and accept help. To humbly be relieved that women are bringing meals to me. To acknowledge that I don’t have the energy needed to brush and braid my daughter’s hair, so asking an understanding teacher to be in charge of it is best. To be gentle with myself when I would rather try to stir up activity by guilting myself into action. Accepting the fact that my depression means I have no bootstraps with which to pull myself up.
He’s called me out of my usefulness into something else.
God’s view on the non-productive
Thankfully, I’m not the first non-productive servant God has had, so He has a stance on people like me. And, un-shockingly for those who know Him, it is one of gentleness.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out (Isaiah 42:3).
Timothy Keller, in his book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, explains these metaphors. A bruised reed is one that is damaged in such a way that it will no longer produce. Instead, it is simply drawing resources. Thus a smart farmer would break it to keep all of the water and nutrients going for the plants that will produce. Similarly, a smoldering wick is not producing light but instead sucking up fuel that could be used for later. It would be good stewardship to put it all the way out.
That is what a conservative god would do with me- break me off or snuff me out because I am unable to produce.
This is what is so different about our God! His resources are endless. He does not have to carefully manage them, so He can be gentle to those who are non-productive. He knows He has abundance enough to be generous.
This has been so encouraging to me as I see myself drawing on resources without giving anything in return. God has this promise for me, the bruised reed. He sees me as worth His investment. Even if I am never again able to be productive, I have worth to Him. Even writing that, I hope with all my heart He will choose something else for me! Yet I yield to His will being done- that I will be whoever He wills me to be. To say that means I must adjust my view of meaning to shift worth away from what I produce. Because when the Lord of the universe says that I’m worthwhile, that has greater weight than how anyone else, including myself, sees me.